Pub Of The Week: Tony Leonard reviews the City Oval Hotel
City Oval Hotel
Cnr Mair/Pleasant Streets, Ballarat
August 3, 2018
Majestic brick hotel within the shadows (literal) of City Oval and just a stroll to Lake Wendouree, the City Oval at the top end of Ballarat could easily be on the cover of any magazine promoting this wonderful town.
Inside with fireplaces dotted around the bar/bistro areas, sealed concrete floors. leadlight windows, and delicious (thanks BMac) front bar, this was the spot prior to the unintended night match involving the Bulldogs and Power on a typical winter’s day in the Rat.
The City Oval screams comfort and once inside, enjoying a drink, you settle in and basically don’t want to leave.
Owner/operated, no TAB/no Pokies, the pub operates basically in 2 rooms. Although there are rooms to hold functions it’s one at the bar and move a couple of feet to your table, all with service brought to you. Happy to report the 7oz/200ml glass is alive and well here.
The menu is extensive with all meals just having a little extra on them to elevate above the straightforward, but essentially falling into that catch all of good pub grub. To be fair, the meals are priced to the mark, but you can see a real difference when presented. Others may view differently.
Not sure how Ballarat pubs capture this, but there always is a evening feel to them in the middle of the day.
Here no exception, the City Oval is easy to like.
Some nice shares dominate the entrees. Homemade Duck Spring Rolls $16.95 with plum dipping sauce, Grilled Kebabs 2 for $16, choice of chicken, seafood, lamb, beef skewers, Caramelised Onion & Meredith Goat’s Cheese Tart, $15, topped with roquette & balsamic glaze represent the kitchen offering different to commence.
The mains cover the traditional pub bases, but Salmon (32), crispy skin, comes with steamed greens, mash and bearnaise, while the Mixed grill (34) comes steak, sausage, chicken lamb, bacon, egg chips, gravy. Steaks start around 33, and the eye (250g) comes in at $40.
Entrees $15, Mains $30, Desserts $11.
Lamb Shanks ( small) cooked in red wine sauce, mash and green beans. $28.95. Good. Not sure how you could go the larger version (33.95), this was what you expect from this old school favourite. Moist, falling off the bone, plentiful, as the rain fell, the tastier this was.
Slow Cooked Pork Belly, potato gratin, veg. $32. Combined the 3 elements as expected (maybe a fraction more rendering from the fat, but all good), this arrives as two large rectangles with excellent spud and veg. Not sure if this dish lends itself to 2 sizes, but one slice was plentiful. The pub got this one as right as anyone.
Good amount of choices but the beer, CD, in a glass was a step back in time. Mainly drawn from the Carlton portfolio (Fat Yak, Dry).
The wine list is well thought out, supports a number of nearby regions, and is fairly priced. Some bottles are offered under $30 (good) and plenty offered by the glass. Rockbare Riesling (9pg//38/bottle) and Blue Pyrenees Merlot (9/37) was the red. As always, BP represents good buying.
SERVICE AND STYLE:
Personable enough from owner, happy to see you, and no issues. While not affecting the meals, I thought the meals service from the kitchen did seem to take its time on a relative quiet Sunday.
There is no doubt that as more people migrate to Ballarat, the food/drink/hospitality scene has to keep pace. Pubs must adapt to this change or be left behind and I am happy to say that the City Oval’s offer is doing just that.
The menu reads well from any POV, and with a successful motel next door (Lake Inn motel) any visitor going into the City Oval isn’t likely to want to venture into the main drag of Sturt St. This is a pub that you want to be in.
The City Oval is blessed with a gorgeous facade, and the interior matches the exterior and simply put is so easy to like.